WASHINGTON — Eight Republican members of the Iran-Contra investigating committees came to the Administration's defense Wednesday, declaring in a minority report that although the President and his aides made mistakes, "there was no constitutional crisis, no systematic disrespect for 'the rule of law,' no grand conspiracy."
The 300-page minority rebuttal, signed by two of the five Republicans on the Senate committee and all six Republicans on the House committee, castigated the majority report as "a weapon in the ongoing guerrilla warfare" between Congress and the President over foreign policy.
"It started out as a witch hunt, it proceeded as a witch hunt, and the final report showed that it was indeed a witch hunt," Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), a member of the House panel, said of the congressional investigation.
Series of Mistakes Cited
The Republicans suggested that Reagan and others in the Administration should have confronted Congress on their foreign policy differences, rather than trying to dodge it. They cited what they said were a series of crucial mistakes:
--Reagan signed into law rather than veto a congressional ban on aid to the Contras. He also waged a "less-than-robust defense" of his constitutional powers to conduct foreign policy.
--The National Security Council staff deceived Congress about its activities in Central America.
--The Administration secretly sold arms to Iran, in direct contravention of its own policy against dealing with terrorists, and then withheld notification from Congress for "a length of time that stretches credulity."
--Former National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter authorized the diversion of arms sale profits to the Contras without telling Reagan.
But the Republicans wrote: "We emphatically reject the idea that through these mistakes, the executive branch subverted the law, undermined the Constitution or threatened democracy." They also rejected the committee majority's contention that the President had flouted what the majority repeatedly described as "the rule of law."
"The bottom line . . . is that the mistakes of the Iran-Contra affair were just that--mistakes in judgment and nothing more," the minority report said.
The Republicans added that Congress should lay part of the blame upon itself. In particular, they faulted lawmakers for passing a series of ambiguous and changing restrictions on U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan rebels.
The Republicans also assailed the tone of the majority report, saying it "arrays and selects the so-called 'facts' to fit preconceived theories."
"This becomes most obvious," they wrote, "when we see a witness dismissed as being not credible for one set of events and then see the same witness' uncorroborated testimony become the basis for a major set of assertions about other events."
As one of several examples, they cited the committee's willingness to believe Lt. Col. Oliver L. North's testimony that he and the late CIA Director William J. Casey wanted to establish a private covert network, despite the fact that several people close to Casey denied that he would have countenanced such an idea. In other areas, the panels rejected North's assertions.